Fresh. Contemporary. Modern. Photography for the fashion-inspired bride.

Why Gear Doesn’t Matter – and Why it Does

I have to admit, with winter finally just starting to ease up, I haven’t been shooting as much as I’d like. The cold brings about longings for fireplaces, hot chocolate, and warm blankets, not standing outside pretending that you’re not freezing your toosh off. So, what have I been doing with my time?

Not doing my school work, that’s for sure. I’ve developed a pretty nasty habit of procrastination, resulting in staying up until all hours of the night finishing things I need to get done. So what am I doing while I’m not studying accounting or management? I’m learning. Learning about photography: techniques, business, marketing, and all sorts of things related to this newfound passion in my life. I want to grow. To perfect my craft. To define my direction and style.

This is all made possible, mostly in part, by relationships. Relationships with photographers near and far. I have a couple close-knit photographers that I know personally, but a lot of the relationships I’ve been forming are online. Facebook is a great tool, but I absolutely love the [ b ] school community. It’s still in its growing phase, and a lot more will be implemented in the next few months, I’m sure, but even now, I’m completely satisfied. There are videos, images galleries, and my favorite: forums. I really like to spend my time reading about other people’s businesses – what they excel at, what they struggle with, how they handle different situations – you name it, it’s on there.

One that came up not too long ago was the difference between high-end camera equipment and starter gear. Now, I’m the first to admit, that I made a mistake when I was shopping around for my first dSLR. I went for the cheapest thing I could get my excited little fingers on without pausing to think about the long term. Did I realize I would outgrow this camera within a year? No. But I am in the beginning stages of upgrading (read: saving), so this topic really caught my eye. The question was whether or not it was okay for seasoned photographers to still shoot with “starter” gear. A ton of great points were brought up, but essential theme throughout was that the gear does not make the photographer. New gear should only be purchased when the current gear limits and prohibits the desired look.

For example, you can’t expect an 18-55mm kit lens to produce the type of bokeh that most photographers look for. In the same way, you can’t rely on a Canon Rebel to get a decent looking image in that extra dark basement (at least not my basement!). If those are the shots you need or want, then yes, you would want to upgrade your gear. But the biggest thing to remember is that having the best, most expensive gear won’t do you ANY good if you don’t know how to use it. Photographers have been making great images for decades and haven’t always had the Canon 1D or 5DMII. Yes, if you know what you’re doing, these camera bodies will make your images so much better. But you can’t just pick up a top-of-the-line camera, turn it on, and expect it to make magic. Aaron, a fellow [ b ] schooler, jokes: “Hey everyone, I just bought a paint brush and a paint pallet from Michael’s. I should now be able to paint the Mona Lisa right? But what do you mean? I bought the SAME brush Leonardo used.” While it’s a hilarious quote, unfortunately, a lot of people assume it’s the equipment that makes the photos, not the photographer. Rengie disagrees: “You can give a disposable camera to a seasoned photographer and I bet you he/she can make better photos than an amateur with a hassy H4D.”

So, that is just my opinion. You may agree or disagree. But in other news, speaking of new equipment, I’ve always been impressed with the effects tilt-shift lenses produce. However, I don’t exactly have money to drop on one, and I don’t exactly understand Lensbabies. So, a while ago, I came across a technique that replicates this effect without having the specialty gear: freelensing. Then I forgot about trying it, and came across another guide yesterday, and decided to try it. So, here are my first couple tries. It’s super hard, but I’m determined to master it.

What do you think? Do you like the effect? Check out the freelensing flickr group – some of the images are amazingly dreamy. Happy Monday!

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5 responses

  1. I agree with your assesment about gear. I view a lot of photography online and have seen superb work done with lower grade equipment as well as high-end pro gear. Of course I have also seen bad photography, both artiscally and technically, done with all types of gear. The main thing, in my opinion, is to focus on the photography first and then know how to use your gear to accomplish what you envision. You should also know your gear strengths and weaknesses, as you pointed out, and how to utilize or work around them. As an example, I follow a couple blogs about photography, one photographer uses ordinary “consumer” gear and does incredible work, the other uses a Canon 5DMkII with L-series lenses and shoots what amounts to snapshots (and technically bad ones at that). Of course, the second one gets plenty of adoring comments and the first gets very little.

    March 14, 2011 at 11:59 am

  2. rik

    Loved this, Rachel. So true. Just a couple weekends ago, my family went to possibly our first wedding where I wasn’t also working as the photographer. When the couple got engaged, they initially had expressed interest in hiring me–I had done his senior portraits and am good friends with both families–but then one of their aunts said that she would do it for them as a wedding present. She’s a professional: has a website, charges clients, etc., etc. She showed up with a 5DMkII, 50 1.2L, 580exII flash…and that’s it. And I’m pretty sure she shot the whole wedding on 1.2, even the group shots (my daughter is out of focus in both images she’s posted online). At the reception, I taught her how to get the flash to shine the autofocus-assist beam (because her AL Servo (AL?!) couldn’t get the focus in such low light) and loaned her my 17-40L lens because I didn’t want the couple to only have head and shoulders pictures from the reception. It’s totally not about the gear; it’s about what you do with it.

    March 14, 2011 at 2:19 pm

  3. rik

    another thing to check out, just to prove it isn’t about the camera: this photoshoot was shot entirely on an iphone 3Gs. and it blows my mind every time I look at it.

    Enjoy: http://fstoppers.com/iphone/

    March 14, 2011 at 2:32 pm

  4. I think you summed up everything I’ve been thinking lately when you said that new gear should only be purchased when the current gear limits and prohibits the desired look. I did the same thing & got the “snazzy camera” that I outgrew in a little less than a year, and now it’s killing me. But I know that one day I’ll have what I need, I just need to be patient for now :)

    March 14, 2011 at 7:47 pm

  5. I agree. Just because you have a $2000 camera doesn’t mean you have the eye for it. Have fun saving up… once you get to break that piggy bank on a new baby, you’re gonna love it!

    March 14, 2011 at 9:39 pm

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